Tag Archives: Marriage

About Us

Today is the anniversary of the day Jim and I got married. I’d love to tell you that it was a perfect fall day like today, sunny with crisp, cool air, but I don’t remember. In fact I think there were clouds for at least part of the day.

I do remember standing at the front of the small chapel with Jim, our family members in pews behind us. Jim’s sister played guitar as my brother-in-law sang “The Wedding Song.” The church organist indulged us with harpsichord music, including “Ode to Joy” for the recessional. I remember our wedding reception, surely the most boring one in history. Even I was bored! And the photos, almost all taken with the top of the tallest person’s head missing.

Like our wedding, in some ways our marriage is really ordinary, and in other ways it’s quite unusual. I’ve learned over time that no one has a very good view into someone else’s marriage. What on the outside looks very solid can be built on sand. Other marriages may look destined for failure, but in reality be full of strength we can’t see. So I am not the best judge of what parts of our life are unusual and what parts are typical.

What I do know is few women grow up planning to marry a man who already has two young children. When our older daughter was 19 and the younger 16, we had our son. If only in that, our life together has been unusual. But I think there is more. For more than three decades we’ve worked as partners, rarely at odds on any substantial issues. Long ago we understood the value of “giving in” to the person who cares more about something. Fortunately neither of us is a recreational fighter, and our values are so similar that giving in doesn’t need to happen much.

We find the same things funny, as well. Jim could always make me laugh, from when we first met. He told me jokes about the hippopotamus or the school bus… We made up limericks and word play as we drove from one place to another. Now we tell each other stories about the people and places we see, making up long narratives about what led to the current scene, or what the outcome will be. The stories almost inevitably end in laughter.

He taught in three different high schools from the time I met him, and finally retired from school teaching in 2007. Then he spent several years as an office worker before retiring again. I was a student, an office worker, a teacher, at varying times. His work was in physics, mine in finance.

Our professions were in different realms, but our outside interests overlap. We both love sharing and teaching on our blogs, and in person when opportunities arise. Politics and policy are important to us. Our similar values place us on the same side of most policy issues. We both love hiking, and try to stay physically fit through activity and what we eat.

Is this like most couples? I don’t know. What I do know is, whether or not our marriage stands apart, Jim does.

To put it simply, Jim is the best person I know. He treats other people with respect and kindness that seems to be exceptional in the world these days. The way he treats others is not for show. It’s how he is, and how he also treats me, his children, and his closest family members and friends.

More than that, Jim is a rock. He is MY rock. Some people think rocks are boring because they don’t change, but this is not how I see rocks or Jim. Rocks are solid and tangible, but not unchanging through time. They can have many layers, each with a little different character. They wear and weather, changing their shape and revealing new colors. Forces can change their location, leaving them to settle into new circumstances. Sometimes they sport colorful lichens or ferns that grow on rough surfaces or in crevices.

Jim is solid, a rock in my life. He changes but is not fickle or surprising. He reveals new layers to me through time. He makes himself at home in new locations, finding comfort even after upheaval. And he makes room in his life for color, enjoying adventures both at home and away.

Is our marriage unusual? Again, I don’t know. When Jim and I attended a wedding a few years ago, those at our reception table commented about how long they’ve been married. When I noted the length of our union, one of the guests asked, “And how much of that has been happy?” The question startled me and made me wonder. Is a happy marriage so atypical that a question like that is warranted? I answered, “Almost all of it!”

Indeed there have been unhappy days and times of great stress. We’ve negotiated our way through numerous transitions, with multiple homes and states and jobs over time, with distant family support, with our age difference.

Even so, the sun shines most days, as it does today. And when it does not, I have a rock to shelter me.

Jim here… I want to add a few things. You surprised me with this. That’s one of the things about you I like. Thank you for the kind and flattering words.

You are honest and generous. You let people know how you feel without playing games. You try to make the world a better place for those near you. You bring color and beauty to our home. Those are only a few of the reasons I love you. I am blessed.


Ireland | We Are Proud Of You

from Jim and Melanie

We are very pleased with the vote in Ireland for equality. It is meaningful in many ways. Those family and friends we love dearly have felt a breath of inspiration and fresh air as some closed gates open a little more, although still too slowly. We are hopeful that our children and grandchildren will look back and see this decade as a time important choices were made for good and inclusion.

Reporting from Ireland shows the strongest support for Yes was in the 68-74% range. Only one county in the country voted No and barely at 51%. Overall, the vote was about 2 to 1 for Yes. Voting required your presence in person. Nearly 60,000 people returned from other parts of the world to place a small mark onto a piece of paper saying Yes I am for equality.

The news cycles move quickly. Already, the coverage is dwindling as people move on to other things. The importance of this statement by the beautiful people of Ireland will not diminish. We are proud of them. It is time to open more gates symbolized by these near my Kelly and Huston homeland.

Peace to you… Jim

Gates of Rosemead Estate 2011

Gates of Rosemead Estate 2011

For Better | For Worse

by Jim and Melanie

They were married in August 1933. This picture shows them at a family Christmas potluck dinner in 1999, well into their 67th year since exchanging their vows. A week later, Mom drove the eighteen miles alone to go to mass on New Year’s Eve at the country church they always attended. Dad wasn’t feeling well enough to go.

Some at church noticed how strange it was that Mom didn’t take communion during mass. On her way home, she made a wrong turn into a driveway and got the car stuck at the edge. A farmer stopped and helped get her going again. Several miles closer to home, she turned into a farm lot with a large white building that looked vaguely like their garage at home. She opened the door of the car and starting walking down the road in the ditch. Someone saw the car with lights on and door open and alerted authorities. They soon arrived and found her. She was taken to the hospital 75 miles away. Diagnosis was a stroke. She never went home again.

See The Stroke of Midnight for more about Mom and about stroke symptoms and risks.

And more of their story…

Who is that guy?

He was handsome, with round blue eyes and dark thick lashes, his ready smile showing off his straight teeth. Time after time I saw him in the cafeteria line, and I was curious about his presence with college-aged students, his age outside the norm. He was dressed too casually to be faculty or staff, but my limited imagination didn’t help me answer the question: who is that guy?

All of nineteen, I was still a kid that summer. I was unmotivated and adrift, in college with no purpose, not in danger of going under, but riding the surface, swept by currents I couldn’t master. Summer school and the university job I held were just a means to bide my time, until what, I didn’t know.

The cafeteria was a broad expanse, pale linoleum floor underneath, long rows of tables end to end. Finding friends and acquaintances in the room was easier than one might think, as there was little to impede the view from one side of the big room to the other.

At lunch one early July day I found and sat with my friend Dan, one of the resident assistants in the dorm attached to the dining hall. “Who is that guy?” I asked, gesturing to the man twenty feet away from me. Dan looked that way.

“Don’t you know Jim?”

I shook my head. “Who is he?” I repeated.

“He’s on my floor,” he said to me, before hollering down the table, “Hey Jim!” Jim turned our way. “Hey Jim, have you met Melanie?”

Jim shook his head and smiled at me, waving hello.

A high school science teacher, Jim was in the first summer of a three-year masters program and was living on campus, the cheapest and most convenient housing for students like him. His real home was an apartment more than three hours away.

We got acquainted quickly after that, falling in love faster than good sense dictated. We ate pizza and drank beer and necked in the garden next to the biology building. We watched the Perseids meteor shower and walked around the pond, camped in the state park, rolled hedge apples. We listened to Bob Seger and James Taylor and dreamed of the day we could be together every day, not just five days a week for another five weeks.

I told my mother I’d fallen in love, something I expect she’d heard before. I told her about the two pretty little girls, ten and eight years old, and she told me it was foolish to get involved. It wasn’t the only bad advice she ever gave me.

Today we celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary. Recently someone asked how much of that had been happy. The question dumbfounded me. “Almost all of it,” I said.

I’ve heard other people answer that question other ways. Despite our age difference, despite the fact we weren’t an obvious couple, despite our differing interests, we have the important things in common. Our values are similar, our sense of humor is similar, we appreciate the same activities, the same aesthetics. He could always make me laugh. So yes, almost all of it has been happy.

We still eat pizza and drink beer and neck in the garden, walk around the pond, watch for meteors, and roll hedge apples. We listen to more blues and jazz now than pop and rock. We still love our pretty little girls, with children of their own, and our son and his fiancee.

Today we celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary. What would have happened if I hadn’t asked Dan, “Who is that guy?” What would have happened if we hadn’t been so foolish, he to get involved with a nineteen-year-old girl, me to get involved with a man who already had two children?

Today we celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary. I love you, Jim. I’m ready for 32 more.

My Youngest Brother is Gay

How I See It

I was raised in a large family on this farm in the mid-west. It was a great place to grow up with two older brothers, four older sisters, and two younger brothers. There is a twenty year spread in our ages. Dad worked the farm. Mom worked the house and us kids. We were raised to be true to the Catholic church. Eat no meat on Friday, regular confession, fast before church, take regular communion, receive all the sacraments at the proper time. Those were the rules we followed without question. We were smart and happy most of the time. We did well in school and never gave our parents undue grief. Almost never.

We lived a variety of life experiences. Some of us completed college. Some never went. Eight are legally married. Seven have children. Seven are politically conservative. Six are practicing Catholics. One is a fundamentalist christian and…

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by Melanie in IA

He reaches for me, his hand thin and spotted. The skin is smooth but cool. I’ll need to trim his nails tomorrow. I pull the faded quilt up to his shoulders but he shrugs it back. Blue eyes, wet with age and grief, he cries for losing me.

The machines maintain their low hum. Pushed back against the wall, they are unobtrusive. Still I know they’re there, monitoring his heart, feeding him.

We did not want this, but we cannot seem to make it stop.

I stand and turn so he won’t see my own tears. Catching a glance at the mirror, I wonder who that is with white hair. Where did the girl go, with her long brown hair? The girl who fell in love so long ago … is she here, too?

What about the young man, dark beard and lean body? I miss him, though he lies quietly near me.


The day we met I was all of nineteen, captivated by those blue eyes, the straight white smile. Jim and I got acquainted quickly, falling in love faster than good sense dictated. We ate pizza and drank beer and necked in the garden next to the biology building, floral scents mingling with our own.

Swift summer days filled with each other, against each other. The heat was intense, recorded temperatures matching our desires. We watched the Perseids meteor shower and walked around the pond, camped in the state park, rolled hedge apples. We listened to Bob Seger and James Taylor and dreamed of being together every day, not just five days a week for another five weeks.

We married more than a year after meeting, in the small chapel of a large Protestant church. The ceremony and reception were small, planned and paid for by us, only family in attendance. The reception featured cake and punch and bored guests, eager to retreat. I’d hoped the two families would interact but they did not. The wedding photos, taken by Jim’s brother, each reliably cut off the top inch of the tallest person’s head. It was not the wedding of anyone’s dreams, but it served the purpose.

Still, things happen in a marriage that can change its course, for better or for worse. Things happen that a young woman can’t anticipate on her wedding day. Deaths and births, job changes, other people, all have an impact.


A small moan draws my attention back to him, where he dozes restlessly. I sit again, holding his hand, assuring him I will not leave. He quiets.


We’re unusually compatible, I tell people. Despite our age difference, despite the fact we weren’t an obvious couple, we have the important things in common. Our values are similar, our sense of humor is similar, we appreciate the same activities, the same aesthetics. He could always make me laugh. Together 64 years, almost all of it happy.

The hardest year was the year I made the quilt covering him now. “Quilt therapy,” I called it, a way to focus on something besides my own stew of emotion. I made it without a plan, not knowing what it would be. Like a marriage, perhaps, each layer built on the one before. I cut and stitched, trying to fit the pieces together.

The quilt is faded and worn now, like him, like my memories. I do remember how distant I felt that year, on a journey alone through dark and uncomfortable places. With an anxiety disorder that came from nowhere, it took over every part of my life. I was overwhelmed with questions I couldn’t answer, pieces I couldn’t fit together. The questions spun through my mind, like the chorus of a bad song played endlessly for months. What happened? Why did it happen? How could I fix it?

Self-doubt replaced self-confidence, as I questioned my judgment and behavior. Panic attacks left me doubled over, gasping and helpless. Obsessed with my own concerns, I withdrew from people who cared about me.

We’d always felt like one body, not two, as if an organ transplant between us would be perfectly accepted, no risk of rejection. That year was different. I could not mold myself to him, relax into the oneness we’d always enjoyed. Our pieces did not fit. Yet he had to hold me; I clung to him, begging him not to leave me. Though all of my focus was away from him, that was the year I needed him most.

He did not waver. Enfolding me day after day as I muffled my sobs against his chest, he reassured me, though I could not be reassured.


Again I want to beg him, don’t leave me. Again I cannot be reassured. Surely he will leave me, and soon.

Our son will arrive tomorrow, joining the rest of us. He looks so much like Jim, but with green eyes, not blue. And the beard. He never could talk Jim into shaving it, and Jim never could talk him into growing one.

The beard. I turn back to him, to this old man, and touch his beard. Petting the side of his face, I’m rewarded with a slight smile.

The machines continue to hum. We did not want this. Our son will arrive tomorrow. Maybe, just maybe, then it will stop.